Thursday, November 15, 2012

From Out of Nowhere

Northern Harrier
Whether it be with another birder like Kathie or alone, I sometimes think to myself that it won't be very "birdy" when I first arrive at my destination.   Thankfully, I have lots of experience to suggest that giving "it time" will be full of great reveals.
The Whitewater Draw
The scenery, of course, is gorgeous and can draw your attention away from the action.  But I listen carefully for bird sounds and wait.  A burst of bird energy will surface and then all birds will be up in the air at once!
These Blackbirds for example came in droves by the hundreds and then quickly disappeared.  I snapped as many shots as I could get so that I could ID them at home.  The flocks were full of Yellow Headed Blackbirds and Red Wing Blackbirds.  But there were others mixed in as well:)
Yellow Headed Blackbirds in flight
And so on this day at the Whitewater Draw, I thought I may not get a new lifebird until a group of birds came at me from out of nowhere!  Finding lifebirds is incredibly exciting and when that moment happens, all I do is snap pictures with an incredible focus.  I don't necessarily know what they are specifically at first but I have my bird guide close by after the shoot to research.
Eared Grebes in flight
Today it would be birds from the "Grebe" family.  Were they Western or the Eared Grebe?  Great question.
Eared Grebes
The first thing I do is check the Whitewater Bird List and write down the Grebes reported in the area.  Then I open my bird book and study the pictures both in the bird guide and on my camera.
For these birds, it took the markings on the wings to help me ID.  These were the Eared Grebes.  I observed for about 40 minutes as they dove in and out of the water.  They were quite cute and "playful".
Afterwards, I felt satisfied leaving the area knowing I added a new bird to my list. Several birders from Vermont were looking at a bird up in the rafters.  The woman declared it was a Western Kingbird and argued strongly with her mates.
Is this a Say's Phoebe or Western Kingbird?  What say you?
The men stood their grounds and thought it was a Say's Phoebe.
Can you tell which bird this is?


  1. Chris, what a beautiful place for birding. The scenery is gorgeous. Love the Eared Grebes. I have never seen a Say's Phoebe or the Western Kingbird so I would not be very helpful. Have a great day!

  2. Such beautiful photos! Those birds are magnificent.

  3. Great photos, great birds and great scenery :) Love the Eared Grebes!

  4. Wonderful photos Chris and the scenery is beautiful!

  5. really pretty area. love the flock shots.

  6. Charming stuff Chris. Your Say's Phoebe looks right at home against that similarly toned wooden backdrop. Great shot!

  7. I know the excitement of adding a new species to my bird list. I'm sure my list is much, much shorter than yours as I have only been birding for about a year and only in my corner of the world.

  8. Your enthusiasm is contagious.

  9. It is indeed a great thrill to add a new species to your list Chris, I like the way you photograph them and ID them in the field, that's good birding :-)

  10. A lot of birds! Love it!
    art of flight!

    xoxo, Juliana | PJ’ Happies :) | PJ’ Ecoproject

  11. I love how you catch the birds in flight.
    An old nieghbor of mine had some kind of a silent whistle that attracted blackbirds in hugh flocks. Not sure what it was but was interesting to watch.

  12. A wonderful day with the birds...gorgeous! The photographs are wonderful, and I love the owl in your header.

  13. Love your first shot, flying high and free :)

  14. The Eared Grebes are awfully cute! I'm always glad when I can grab a photo of an unfamiliar bird so I can ponder over my field guide:)

  15. Great set of photos, Chris. I love the Grebes...

  16. I think that they are all pretty amazing....imagine getting to see a bird that you haven't seen before.


  17. Water is always a great place to see new birds, especially during spring and fall migration!

    As far as the mystery bird, it's hard to tell from the pictures but my guess is a Say's Phoebe since I don't see white stripes on each side of the tail. From the way it's "hunting" that points to a phoebe although deducing that from one picture is a big stretch! lol

  18. Another wonderful post! Hope you are able to get the book I recommended and that you enjoy it. I'm surely loving this beautiful weather! Hope we get to meet soon!


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